May 22, 2024

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Israel informed the United States of a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of the possible Rafah operation

Israel informed the United States of a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of the possible Rafah operation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel this week briefed Biden administration officials on a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of a potential operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah aimed at eliminating Hamas militants, according to U.S. officials familiar with the talks.

The officials, who were not allowed to comment publicly and requested anonymity to talk about this sensitive exchange, said that the plan detailed by the Israelis did not change the US administration’s view that going ahead with an operation in Rafah would put a very large number of civilians at risk. Innocent Palestinians. in danger.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to carry out a military operation in Rafah Despite President Joe Biden’s warnings Other Western officials believe that doing so will kill more civilians and exacerbate an already dire humanitarian crisis.

The Biden administration said there could be consequences for Israel if it goes ahead with the operation without a credible plan to protect civilians.

“In the absence of such a plan, we cannot support a major military operation in Rafah because the damage it would do is beyond what is acceptable,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late Friday at the Sedona Forum, an event in Arizona hosted by Amnesty International. . McCain Institute.

About 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge in the southern city of Gaza, where the area has been devastated by the war that began on October 7 after Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage.

The UN humanitarian aid agency said on Friday that hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel goes ahead with the Rafah attack. The border city is an important entry point for humanitarian aid and is full of displaced Palestinians, many of whom reside in densely populated camps.

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The officials added that the evacuation plan that the Israelis shared with the matter had not yet been finalized, and the two sides agreed to continue discussing the matter.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday that the Israelis had not disclosed to the White House a “comprehensive” plan for a possible operation in Rafah. However, the process was discussed during recent calls between Biden and Netanyahu as well as during recent virtual conversations with senior Israeli and American national security officials.

“We want to make sure those talks continue because it is important to protect Palestinian lives — those innocent lives,” Jean-Pierre said.

The revelation that Israel is continuing to implement the Rafah operation came with the arrival of CIA Director William Burns on Friday to Egypt, where negotiators are trying to reach an agreement. Ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas is studying the latest proposal for a ceasefire and hostage release put forward by American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators who are looking to avoid the Rafah process.

They have publicly pressured Hamas to accept the terms of the deal that would lead to an extended ceasefire and the exchange of Israeli hostages captured on October 7 and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hamas said it would send a delegation to Cairo in the coming days to hold further discussions about the offer, but did not specify when.

Israel and its allies sought to increase pressure on Hamas regarding hostage negotiations. Signaling that Israel is continuing to move forward with its planning for the Rafah operation could serve as a tactic to push the militants to finalize the deal.

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Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israeli forces would enter Rafah, which Israel says is Hamas’s last stronghold. Regardless of whether a truce agreement is reached in exchange for the hostages. His statements appear to be aimed at appeasing his national governing partners, and it was not clear whether they would have any impact on any agreement reached with Hamas.

Blinken visited the region, including Israel, this week and called the latest proposal “extremely generous” and said “the time for action is now.”

In Arizona on Friday, Blinken repeated his comments he made earlier this week that “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas.”